Release Date(s)1995 (July 11, 2017)
Studio(s)MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
Species, often lumped in with the barrage of other science fiction/horror films that were released throughout the 1990s, debuted in 1995 to some unsavory reviews but a strong box office take. A simplistic tale of an alien genetics experiment gone wrong, it attracted a variety of names both in front of and behind the camera, including creature designer H.R. Giger. The film also essentially made Natasha Henstridge, the alien/human hybrid named Sil who’s searching for a suitable mate amongst the male population of Los Angeles, a sex symbol overnight.
To be perfectly honest, I only ever saw bits and pieces of Species over the years and never really watched the whole thing played down until now. What I appreciate the most about it is what you might expect: the design work and practical special effects. It’s unsurprising being that H.R. Giger, Steve Johnson, and Richard Edlund were working at the top of their game. Some of it actually reminded me of Rob Bottin’s work in The Thing. The downside is the unnecessary CGI. It was terrible then, and it’s still terrible now. Yet on the whole, Species is a film that has a strong opening with some momentum behind it, but tends to peter out by the end. However, with a cast that includes Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Marg Helgenberger, Forest Whitaker, and Alfred Molina, it’s worth a revisit.
Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of Species contains a new 4K scan of the film’s interpositive element. While at first glance, there might not be a world of difference between this transfer and the one found on MGM’s previous Blu-ray release, scrutinizing it more closely reveals it to be the better of the two. Grain is minimal, without signs of DNR, with an inherent and natural softness on display. It’s also slightly more crisp with edges that haven’t been artificially sharpened, as well as a stronger encode with more solid texturing and fine detail. The most noticeable difference is in the color temperature, which now slants more towards blue than magenta. In turn, skin tones are a little more pink than red. Deeper black levels with strong shadow detailing are also present, as well as improved contrast and lowered brightness levels. It’s a clean and stable presentation with no major film damage leftover and more picture information on all sides of the frame. As is usually the case, seeing it in motion will give you a better idea of its improvements. Audio options include English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD tracks. Both have an ample amount of support in all respects. The 5.1 definitely has more envelopment to it, giving ambient and LFE activity plenty to do. Dialogue exchanges are mostly relegated to the front speakers, but surround activity, specifically panning, is minimal. Sound effects are all fairly crisp and clear, and there are no dropouts to be heard. The 2.0 track is similar, but more confined, obviously. Both tracks are satisfactory, depending on your preference point. Optional subtitles are also included in English.
For the extras selection, everything has been carried over from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film, including a new extra. On the first disc, which contains the film itself, there are two audio commentaries, one with actors Natasha Henstridge, Michael Madsen, and director Roger Donaldson, and the other with Donaldson, make-up effects creator Steve Johnson, visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund, and producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. On the second disc, there’s a great new retrospective documentary on the film’s special effects After Birth: The Evolution of Species (courtesy of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures); From Sil to Eve, an interview with Natasha Henstridge (carried over from Scream Factory’s Species II Blu-ray release); an Engineering Life featurette; the H.R. Giger at Work featurette; The Making of Species documentary in three parts: The Origin, The Concept, The Discovery; a Designing a Hybrid featurette; the film’s unfinished alternate ending; a theatrical trailer; an animated production design gallery; an animated creature design gallery; and a standard still gallery of behind the scenes shots, promotional stills, and posters. Unfortunately, the film’s TV spots haven't been included.
While I’m not the biggest fan of Species, it’s certainly a film that keeps coming back. Whether it’s the sex appeal, the horror aspects, or both, it’s still one that continues to find new fans. Scream Factory’s double-dip of it is a welcome one, giving it a more solid and satisfying high definition release that fans, old and new, are sure to appreciate and enjoy.
- Tim Salmons